Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) barely managed to win 30 percent of the June primary vote, the weakest performance of any Republican incumbent in California.
Election data from previous cycles show a definite shift in voting patterns from the primary to the general election, with Democrats usually increasing their share of the vote in the general election. If these previous patterns hold true, Democratic challenger Harley Rouda has good reason to be optimistic.
In the 2018 primary, Republican candidates combined for 53.55 percent of the vote while Democratic candidates split the remaining 46.44 percent (excluding third-party candidates).
An analysis by Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, one of the premier nonpartisan election websites in the country, states “one would expect the primary turnout to be more Republican-leaning than the general election.”
Kondik’s analysis looked at the change in voting patterns from the primary to the general election in each California congressional district for 2012, 2014, and 2016. On average, Democrats gain 2.4 percentage points in the general election compared to the primary.
In the 48th Congressional District, where Rohrabacher will face Rouda in November, the average is even higher, with the Democratic candidate gaining 3.6 percentage points.
If that average holds for 2018, Rouda will defeat Rohrabacher by a slim margin in November.
In addition to fighting historical trends, Rohrabacher heads into the general election with considerable political baggage. In the closing days of the primary, Rohrabacher embraced housing discrimination against the LGBTQ community. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) called Rohrabacher’s position “unconscionable” and “out of touch with everyday Americans and his own constituents.”
During the primary, fellow Republican Scott Baugh aired brutal campaign ads against Rohrabacher’s “failed 30-year record in Congress,” and pointed out Rohrabacher’s 172 taxpayer-funded international trips, including trips to Russia.
Rohrabacher, widely known as “Putin’s favorite congressman,” has an unusual affinity for the brutal regime. He has gone so far as to call U.S. intelligence agencies “liars,” just to defend Russia’s role in influencing the 2016 election.
When he was not advocating for discrimination or cozying up to foreign adversaries, Rohrabacher spent his time in Congress defending Trump and voting against the interests of constituents. More than 300,000 Californians in his district have pre-existing conditions, yet Rohrabacher voted for a Republican health care bill that would have eviscerated current legal protections for such individuals. He also supported an “age tax” provision which would have allowed insurance companies to charge higher premiums for people aged 50-64.
With just 30 percent of the primary vote, Rohrabacher is limping into the general election campaign, hampered by his embrace of discrimination and his vote for an unpopular health care repeal bill. Recent voting trends are yet another reason Rohrabacher may not be returning to Congress for a 16th term.